St Leonard's, Old Langho

After our visit to Whalley Abbey and the viking crosses in St Mary and All Saints' Churchyard, we popped to Old Langho, to visit St Leonard's Church.

St Leonard’s Church in Old Langho was built in 1557, a rare church in that it was one of the few constructed in the time of Queen Mary Tudor. 

What is remarkable is that St Leonard's Church is wholly constructed from re-used stone from the ruins of Whalley Abbey. It is not only the stone blocks that came from the dissolved abbey, but also the five square topped windows whose style dates from the 1400s. Dotted around the exterior are also shields, faces and elaborate carvings that have all been salvaged from the monastery.

The interior also holds much from the Abbey. The roof beams are from the monastery, as are fragments of stained glass in the north and south windows of the chancel. It is hard to make out any particular scene, but angel wings, leaves and a hand holding a wind instrument can be discerned. Two high status pieces of stone carving have also been reused here. These are the piscina and the credence shelf. The piscina has a quatrefoil (four lobed) basin with a trefoil (three lobed) head. This was used to wash the vessels used during communion. The elaborately carved credence shelf was where the communion vessels were placed after use. This was originally a holy water stoup at the abbey.

St Leonard's is a beautiful church, with such an interesting history. Mary Tudor has always fascinated me, and the religious upheaval of the Sixteenth Century is so clearly delineated in the poetry of the time. So to find a church in the Ribble Valley, built during her reign, from stones and materials rescued from the Abbey, destroyed by the father, Henry VIII, is quite amazing.

Queen Mary, the first Queen to rule in her own right, was the daughter of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. When Mary came to the throne in 1553, she attempted to restore England and Wales to Catholicism. The Counter-Reformation is one of the most significant features of her five year reign. Mary has always been in the shadow of her more famous, and religiously acceptable, sister Elizabeth I.

St Leonard's Church is a testament to how enduring Catholicism has been in Lancashire. A fascinating Church.